The new “B” word is “bullying”. Nearly every school, the Internet, particularly social media, and even the workplace, experience it on some level. Bullies are actually unimaginative and universal in their modus operandi. Here are some basic pointers on how they operate (whether child or adult), and how to give yourself or your child more chance of success –
Are scared to death but cover it up with threat and bluster
Are deeply insecure – a secure, happy person never needs to bully
Need to feel in control because they lack any sense of control
Often have anger issues
Often lack empathy
Are often intolerant
Will often attempt to pull in others to “help” them bully – they’re a lot tougher with an audience
Need you to be too scared or intimidated to report it or tell anyone
Require an imbalance of power
Often refuse to accept responsibility for their actions and are skilled at rationalizing their behavior and blaming, deflecting
Need you to be alone so you’re more vulnerable
Need you to engage, get caught in a dynamic where you’re so busy defending yourself you can’t be rational (or attack back)
Thrive on your fear – the more afraid you are, the more power they have
You will not be able to plead, guilt trip, “soften” or reason this person out of this behavior. So don’t invest energy, or tears, into pleading or “Why won’t you just be nice?? Why are you doing this!?” rationales – they don’t work and only give a bully your power and allow them to thrive off of your fear. Do not fight fire with fire – don’t engage at all. As long as you’re engaging, they are getting power from you. Bullying behavior, in adult or child, is often a good indication that this person may become, if not already, an abuser.
Report bullying of any kind and keep on reporting it until something is done about it. Schools have a responsibility to keep children safe at all times while in school. The best weapon against bullying is reporting bullying. Kids, this is the time to pull in supportive adults. Adults, if at work, go to the next higher level in the chain of command. Document the incident(s) well. Get witnesses. Stay away from a bully; if you goad a bully then you’re part of the problem; there’s a reason the word “bully” contains the word “bull” in it.
Teachers, leaders, and other adults, establish clear, zero-tolerance policies right now of how to address bullying behavior. A bully will push your limits to where you put a stop to it. It’s up to you put a stop to it; a bully will rarely do it on their own.
Parents and other supportive persons, know the signs of how to recognize your loved one, your friend, your coworker, your child, might be being bullied. Please go to https://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/warning-signs/index.html. Ask questions in a non-accusatory manner. Don’t blame a bullied person as if to suggest they must have done something to cause it. Believe them unless and until you have evidence otherwise. Try to give them safety and assurance. Offer to go with them if they think they may encounter a bully. Help them know they did nothing whatsoever to cause them being bullied and it’s not their fault – a bully’s behavior is about them, not about the person they are bullying.
If you must interact with a bully, don’t do, or say, anything that could be held against you later. Keep things on a concrete, basic, black and white level. Keep any communication civil, brief, to the point. Exude quiet confidence and stay focused on the point and don’t be diverted or redirected. A bully will try to get you confused, lose your focus, and have to start defending yourself against them. Stay in control and calm. It’s your calm a bully can’t deal with. Do not allow them to push you into an argument-corner where you are so busy having to defend their accusations, etc. that you can’t think rationally. Do not be pulled into arguments, fights, defending yourself against a barrage of verbal abuse, threats, tirades. Have a witness, such as a friend or coworker, present at all interactions; do not engage one-on-one with a bully, and do not meet alone, as this is the one-up environment where a bully thrives.
Parents, this is a powerful opportunity to teach and model for your children confidence, boundaries, empowerment. Don’t ever pressure a child or adult to “try to live with it or just do what they want so they’ll leave you alone”.